Supplies of quality summer berries remain strong, growers say - The Packer

Supplies of quality summer berries remain strong, growers say

07/20/2012 12:55:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Summer may be nearly half over, but good-quality berries of all kinds still are plentiful.

Strawberry growers could be on their way to a record season if good weather holds, said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville.

“Overall, volumes will hit peak production throughout the month of July,” said Valerie Lott, director of strawberry business management for Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville.

“They will steadily decline thereafter as we transition into our late summer programs.”

Last year, a long, cold spring pulled down supplies in California.

The industry produced about 178.3 million trays, down from a record 181.3 million trays in 2010.

As of June 30, the industry was running about 13 million trays ahead of last year.

Oxnard finished its spring season with 42.5 million trays, up from 36.4 million in 2011, and San Diego/Orange County shipped about the same as last year’s 4.3 million trays.

California’s strawberry season should continue strong through July then start to drop off in August, O’Donnell said. But the Oxnard district should kick off its fall program in September.

On July 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $7-8 for trays of eight 1-pound containers of large and medium-large strawberries. Organic strawberries were $10-12 for medium-large.

Things also were looking good on the blueberry scene.

“Everybody seems to be reporting favorable crops overall,” said Mark Villata, executive director of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsom, Calif.

“Everything is setting up well for Oregon and Washington,” he said in early July.

The crop kicks off in Oregon, and Washington and British Columbia are not far behind.

Volume likely will be a bit lighter than usual out of the Midwest, he said, but a good amount of blueberries still should be coming out of that region.

Production trends

The industry has experienced record production over the past couple of seasons, and Villata expects that trend to continue.

North American Highbush blueberry production was 532 million pounds last year, he said, and this year’s figure should be in the same ballpark.

Volume for 2010 was 508 million, up from 424 million in 2008 and 367 million in 2007.

On July 16, the USDA reported prices on flats of 12 1-pint cups of medium blueberries from Michigan as mostly $18.50-21. Medium-large berries from New Jersey were mostly $17.75-18.75.

Demand

California blackberry production ran extremely late this year, said Vince Lopes, vice president of sales for Naturipe Farms LLC, Salinas, Calif.

“Demand has and will most likely continue to exceed supply into midsummer,” he said.

“At some point later in July, promotable supplies will be available well into the fall.”

Until then, volume should remain much lighter.

In North Carolina, growers were having a difficult time, said Ervin Lineberger, owner of Killdeer Farms in Kings Mountain.

“It’s been a rough year for everyone,” he said July 10.

Most North Carolina crops suffered some freeze damage in April, he said, and wet, hot weather has meant “less than ideal growing conditions.”

The navajo blackberries that Killdeer Farms was shipping in July did not suffer freeze damage, but overall yields were down, he said.

On July 16, USDA reported that flats of 12 6-ounce cups of blackberries with lids from the Salinas-Watsonville district sold for $16-18.

Meanwhile, in Watsonville, raspberries were coming off their peak during the first part of July, but Dan Crowley, sales manager for Well-Pict Inc., said they’ll ramp back up with another push in August and September.

Quality and flavor profiles have been outstanding, he said, and promotional volume should be available well into October.

On July 16, USDA listed trays of 12 6-ounce containers of raspberries from Salinas/Watsonville at $12.



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